Labour Party

Learning the lessons from defeat

Having signed a petition urging the publication of Margaret Beckett’s report into the General Election defeat – I thought I’d better read it.

The tone, perhaps unsurprisingly, is defensive.  One problem identified early on is Labour’s failure to establish an effective counter-narrative on the economy – this she attributes, in part, to the coalition government.  Rather than joining Labour on the attack, the Lib Dems fell into line behind the Tories.  Other contributing factors behind the defeat included, the report suggests, the deadening effect of fixed term parliaments, the Tories’ stronger financial position and the timing of global financial upheavals.

Those misleading opinion polls are revisited; ‘differential turnout’ and support for Labour clustering in safe seats  where it was least needed are amongst the reasons cited for the gap between polls and results.

There were reminders of the groups whose support for Labour has fallen dramatically over the last 20 years – those over 65, and – even though they are still more likely to vote Labour than Conservative – C2s and DEs.

The report engages with several common perceptions about the GE defeat. One is the idea that ‘we were too left wing’.  As the report asserts, for many this was not true at all – including, I assume, all those Labour supporters who enthusiastically voted for Corbyn as leader.  Some of these may have avoided Labour back in May because it was not left wing enough. Obviously some did find Labour too left wing – the kind of voters who might have been wooed back with Liz Kendall as leader.  As well as those straightforwardly to the left or right of Labour, there are other voters who pick and mix positions more incongruously – perhaps supporting harder left views on the economy but UKIP-style policies on immigration.

I would have liked to have gained a clearer sense of exactly how members responded to Beckett’s request for feedback, given that tens of thousands apparently sent in their views.  There’s little acknowledgement of any possible unforced errors here. Early in the report it is stated:

On issues such as immigration and benefits we rightly stuck to our Labour values

I find it difficult to believe I was the only member of the Labour Party who mentioned the immigrant pledge mug in my response to Beckett’s initial request for feedback for this report.  And the Ed stone was another low point which gets no mention.